Rating the Roster, Training Camp Edition (Part 3)
|07.25.10 at 2:48 pm ET|
As we previously explained, we settled on these rankings by considering a combination of factors, including overall ability, positional versatility, expectations, contract situation and place on the depth chart. We also looked at what might be best described as intangibles — loosely defined as a mixture of clubhouse character and willingness to work. In all, it helped us determine the overall value of each player within the Patriots system.
60. Wide receiver David Patten: His relentlessly positive attitude, his professionalism and his unquestioned chemistry with Tom Brady cannot be challenged. In spring practices, it was great seeing him running routes and connecting with Brady again. However, one wonders how much Patten, who turns 36 next month, has left at this stage of his career. It’s important to note that the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder didn’t look out of place during spring practices, but will likely battle a collection of younger and faster players for one of the final receiver spots.
59. Cornerback Terrence Wheatley: In the course of their careers, few players have ever suffered a drop-off like Wheatley. In 2008, he was good enough to be a starting cornerback three months into his first year as a pro — his performance against Indy’s Marvin Harrison before he injured his wrist that November was impressive for anyone, let alone a rookie. But since then, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Wheatley has been dogged by injury — he was inactive an astounding 11 times in 2009 — and has since slipped all the way down the depth chart. One of the nicest guys on the team, he really needs to have a good camp.
58. Defensive lineman Ron Brace: By his own admission, Brace wasn’t ready for the NFL last season. The 6-foot-3, 330-pound Brace confessed this spring that his rookie year was a “humbling experience” as he was inactive for seven games and suited up but didn’t play in an eighth. For a guy who was used to starting and contributing — with Boston College, he started 40 of his 49 games — it was a cold dose of reality. But Brace said he’s been listening to veteran Vince Wilfork a lot this season, and talked this spring about the lessons imparted by the Pro Bowler. “My locker was right next to his and he was here in the offseason work program, and I was talking with him,” Brace said of Wilfork. “He was just letting me know there’s always something you need to learn. He was also one of the guys who said, ‘This is the path you need to take if you want to try and make it where you want to go.’”
57. Wide receiver Sam Aiken: With some new faces at wide receiver (Taylor Price, Patten and Torry Holt), last year’s special teams captain could face a difficult battle for playing time at receiver. A good locker room guy whose professionalism is never in question, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Aiken will be part of a really intriguing positional battle at wide receiver this summer.
56. Punter Zoltan Mesko: Boy, this guy is going to be fun. He showed off a really big foot in training camp on several occasions, and was self-deprecating when it came to his interaction with the media. In many ways, the towering (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) opposite of veteran Chris Hanson, who (no pun intended) got the boot at the end of last season after an awful season. According to our friend Gary at Nuggetpalooza, Hanson and the Patriots ended the season with the league’s worst punting average (39.0) and second-worst net average (34.1). Over the last four weeks of the regular season, New England’s net average was just 29.5 yards, a full three yards worse than any other team’s net average in that span. Their 39.0 gross average is the third worst by a Patriots team since 1989 (2002 and 2003 were worse than 2009). Helloooooo, Zoltan.
55. Linebacker Shawn Crable: Who knows? The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Crable, who has been on the shelf for the last two seasons because of injury, remains the most unknown of unknown commodities. Bottom line is that no one on the roster has greater boom-bust potential: If he proves to be a pass-rushing threat off the edge, he will see plenty of snaps, and will certainly give the New England pass defense a much-needed jolt. If he has a bad camp, he could be gone by Week One.
54. Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie: McKenzie, who suffered a bad knee injury during rookie minicamp and was lost for the entire 2009 season, will be tossed into a great positional battle at inside linebacker opposite Jerod Mayo, one that includes Gary Guyton and Brandon Spikes. Considering he was on the shelf all last season, I imagine that the Patriots want to ease the 6-foot-2, 240-pound McKenzie into the mix gently — he was running with the No. 2 defense during spring practices. But if he has a good training camp, he could be right there with Spikes and Guyton once September rolls around.
53. Long snapper Jake Ingram: My “NFL Sunday” co-host Christian Fauria will undoubtedly bust a gut laughing when he sees that I have Ingram at No. 53, but while the New England special teamers struggled for a good bulk of the 2009 season, the Hawaii product was essentially flawless from start to finish, never blowing a single snap in his rookie season. He’s not Lonie Paxton yet, but for where he is in the overall development of his career, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Ingram has certainly proven his worth to the franchise.
52. Wide receiver Taylor Price: This spring, more than one media member was reminded of David Given while watching the 6-foot, 205-pound Price — a physical pass-catcher who still has good enough speed to operate on the outside. Wide receiver is a crowded position, so it won’t be easy for him to get a lot of reps (especially as a rookie), but what he’s done so far, he’s looked pretty good. “He has a good head on his shoulders and he knows what’s expected of him,” Ohio wide receivers coach Dwayne Dixon — who has coached several other NFL receivers as collegians — said of the 6-foot, 212-pound Price. “He wants to prove he can play at that level. I really believe it’s a great situation for him.”
51. Defensive back/Special teamer Kyle Arrington: A former practice squadder who came on at the end of the 2009 season with a series of impressive special teams performances, that work as a special teamer and extra cornerback should be enough to land him a spot on the 2010 team. The 5-foot-10, 196-pound Arrington also won the Practice Player of the Week belt on several occasions last season, which certainly counts for something in the eyes of the coaches.
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